What are Customer Journeys?

Customer Journeys are a tool to map the process a customer goes through along all interaction points with a product or a company. They are used to design better customer experiences and trigger customer actions, e.g., a purchase, trial, etc. While originating as a tool for online funnels, Customer Journeys today also incorporate offline touch-points. Initially derived from the AIDA formula, a Customer Journey today is typically mapped with the ACCRA formula, including the following five high-level steps (Fig. 1):

Fig. 1: ACCRA formula

Key Takeaways

Customer Journeys sind ein beliebtes Werkzeug, um die End-to-End-Kundenerfahrung abzubilden. Die Kombination von Customer Journey-Tools mit Jobs-to-be-done verwandelt sie von lösungsorientierten und komplexen in inspirierende Tools, die Unternehmen helfen, die Bedürfnisse ihrer Kunden zu verstehen und umsetzbar zu werden.

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Customer Journeys aspire to map the end-to-end process from the very early stages of the funnel until retrial or repurchase. Once the journey is mapped, areas can be defined to improve the customer experience or achieve business goals such as higher conversion rates, initial trials and so on.
While in theory Customer Journeys are very concise and to the point, in application this often looks different. In our practice we have seen two key problems which occur when designing Customer Journeys. They are too detailed on the current products or services and too generic on the needs and motivations of customers.

Solutions instead of needs

Customer Journeys often have a high degree of detail when it comes to describing what customers do, but give virtually no insights on why customers do what they do. They are purely descriptive, just mapping the journey customers go through, without inspirational character and without clear areas of improvement or even innovation. Knowing what customers do can only help to some extent. Some touchpoint experiences might get incrementally improved, but the solution focus does not lead to real innovative thinking. Knowing why customers act like they act – in other words their needs behind the actions – is the key ingredient to guide innovative experience design and develop inspirational concepts.

Lost in complexity, not actionable

In today’s proliferation of interaction channels between customers and products/companies, there are not a handful of touch-points but hundreds. Customer Journeys strive to map more and more accurately the experience a person goes through. Add to this that there are different customer groups, often modeled as personas, with different interaction paths, the exercise becomes unmanageably complex and not useful to incite effective actions on the company side.
In the most extreme case the two problems lead to the Bonini paradox (see box). The paradox lies in the counter intuitive fact that the more accurate a map becomes the less it actually helps to orient (or manage) what is being mapped.

Jobs-to-be-done to unlock the innovation potential of Customer Journeys

To unlock the innovative power of Customer Journeys, we need to find a balance between mapping the existing processes customers go through while maintaining a level of abstraction that keeps them manageable and aspirational. That is precisely what Jobs-to-be-done can provide. Because a Customer Journey based on Jobs-to-be-done maps the journey in a solution-free manner.
Jobs-to-be-done is a logic to shift away from thinking about solutions and start thinking about the Job customers want to achieve. Customers, as Levitt once said, don’t want a drill – they want a hole in the wall. The Job-to-be-done logic is a solution-independent way to understand what customers actually want to achieve. For companies, this understanding is key to truly provide more innovative solutions that help customers get the Job done better – and not just incrementally improve existing solutions.
Combining Jobs-to-be-done with our Customer-Focused Innovation (CFI) approach, a Customer Journey becomes truly actionable, because each step in the journey highlights quantitatively validated Pain Points for any touchpoint. We call this the Job Journey Compass, to express that it identifies where along the process things go wrong and helps to orient.

The Bonini paradox

Imagine being a cartographer who wants to map a certain piece of land. You start by drawing the most obvious features like tree lines, houses, rivers, etc. After some time you look at your piece of paper and think quite rightly to yourself “I got the general features, but surely this can be done more precisely. I left some important things out.”
So you grab a bigger pice of paper and redo you map this time also including more detailed features like different kinds of soils, trees, some elevations you left out in your first map. After some time you look at your piece of paper and think yourself “I got the general features and some, but surely this can be done more precisely. I left some things out.” So you grab an even bigger piece of paper …
How big is the paper going to be to be an accurate map of the piece of land? Just as big as the piece of land itself. But then: What purpose would the map have? It would be completely useless to orient yourself as it is equally complex to the piece of land it represents.
That is exactly what is happening to Customer Journeys. Either they are artificially simple or too detailed to retain orienting and navigating power. Customer Journey maps paradoxically, become more useless the more accurate they are in mapping the customer’s experience. Dutton and Starbuck put it this way: “As a model of a complex system becomes more complete, it becomes less understandable. Alternatively, as a model grows more realistic, it also becomes just as difficult to understand as the real-world processes it represents.”

How to design Jobs-to-be-done based Customer Journeys

The first step towards a Jobs-to-be-done based Customer Journey is to move away from the five generic ACCRA steps mentioned above. They might be useful in other contexts, but are too broad to reflect customer reality and, in fact, are purely from a company’s perspective. The steps are not written as needs of customers but as inside-out conceptual steps. But to turn Customer Journeys inspirational and innovative the steps need to be written from the customer’s perspective. A Customer Journey based on Jobs-to-be-done does exactly this: It maps the need sequence evolution of customers along the whole process. It all starts with what we call the Jobs-to-be-done Hierarchy.

The Jobs-to-be-done Hierarchy to define the right level of abstraction

To define the right level of abstraction and as a first step in applying Jobs-to-be-done, we start by building the Jobs-to-be-done Hierarchy as an initial hypothesis. Here is a simplified version of the hierarchy to visualize the logic (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Jobs-to-be-done Hierarchy

The Bigger Why includes more aspirational Jobs that customers have (like to reward oneself or to realize one’s dreams), the Core Jobs are the set of customer Jobs relevant for a specific business intention, while the bottom Job steps are the concrete steps customers go through to achieve the Core Job.
The Core Jobs are those Jobs customer really want to achieve when they go through the purchase or usage process, the Customer Journey. There can be more than one, but often one Core Jobs is enough.
The Job Steps are written from a customer’s perspective, i.e. there is no step “Awareness” but rather “to form a desire” or “to build an intention”. Customers do not want to get aware of solutions, let alone companies. They want holes, not drills. The Job Steps at the bottom cover the whole customer journey, e.g., “to gather information about products” or “to get ideas” and so along the actual journey of customers. Compare the sequence of steps of the Job “to get a new look” – where buying new clothes is a possible solution – versus “to stay informed about world events” – where subscribing to a newspaper is an option. The steps of these two hierarchies will look very different.
In other words: A Jobs-to-be-done based Customer Journey maps the same thing as established Customer Journeys, but strictly from the point of view of the customer and in a solution-agnostic manner.

Job Step Metrics to know how well customers can achieve it

A fully developed Hierarchy represents the need structure of customers: It indicates for each step what they want to achieve, which is more inspirational and not limiting the perspective to touchpoints and solutions. If you want to design an aspirational experience for tomorrow the perspective should not be limited to what exists.
However, knowing the Jobs step is not enough. For each step it must be known which Job Metrics customers apply to judge how satisfyingly their Job is getting done.

Here is an example of a Job Metric (Fig. 3):

Job Metric

that it takes as little time as possible…

… until the relevant product information is found…

… when you need to be sure, e.g. the size, compatibility, etc.


Expected result


Fig. 3: Job Metric example

Validation of Job Metrics with the Job Journey Compass

This is one of the crucial elements when it comes to uncovering customers’ realities: Through the exploration process, customers’ problems are identified in the form of Job Metrics, expressing what customers expect when trying to get a job done. The result is a Job Metric system of 60 to 100 such metrics, capturing all expectations for each Job Step of the Customer Journey. The Job Metrics always follow strict rules to be comparable and free from interpretation and are formulated in a solution-neutral manner.
While 100 Job Metrics may seem quite a lot, in our experience it is about the number required to cover a typical job. After all, customers’ judgment is based on quite a number of very clear-cut expectations, not on just a few general requirement concepts.

Job Journey Compass (Fig. 4)

Fig. 4: Job Journey Compass

In a next step all identified Job Metrics are rated by a representative group of customers. They are asked to rate both the importance of each metric and the degree of its fulfillment – i.e., their satisfaction level. The results of this research can be displayed as a Job Journey Compass, mapping all Job Metrics from left to right in the order of the journey.
In this example the Job Metric “that it takes as little time as possible until the relevant product information is found when you need to be sure, e.g., about the size, compatibility, etc.” has a higher importance than fulfillment rating. This means that this metric is not yet adequately served: It is more important to customers than it is fulfilled. This is how the CFI methodology defines a Pain Point: a validated and concrete need that is important for many people, but not yet well served by the current experience or solution.
Other Job metrics or better whole segments of the Customer Journey are Pain areas in the example above, while some segments only show low fields of opportunity.

Aspirational tool to manage each step from the customer view

Once the Job Journey Compass is established, organizations know precisely where they need to improve the experience or design solutions. That’s why a Jobs-to-be-done based Customer Journey is inspiring: It leaves the room for true innovative thinking on the things that really matter while targeting innovations in a concrete and data-based way.
Imagine the above mentioned Job Metric “that it takes as little time as possible until the relevant product information is found, when you need to be sure, e.g., about the size, compatibility, etc.” is extremely important but not fulfilled. Note that the metric is true for any solution: There are different ways to achieve this, i.e. reduce the time to find relevant information about a product. Through design sprints or other methods innovations or new experiences can be developed to improve the Customer Journey specified by one or several metrics.

Unlock the innovation power of Customer Journeys with Jobs-to-be-done

In conclusion: The concept of Customer Journeys is very valuable for companies to improve the customer experience. However, there are serious pitfalls that can lead into too descriptive models which are not useful or aspirational for innovation. A Jobs-to-be-done based Customer Journey unlocks the innovative potential of Customer Journeys, because it is strictly from the customer’s perspective, and independent from specific touchpoints. It is aspirational as clear areas of improvement and innovation are identified without prescribing direct solutions.